söndag 6 juli 2008


I was listening to the BBC Sunday programme this morning. There were a couple of pieces I found of interest, an interview by Hans Kung and a feature on the Anglican's troubles.

Hans Kung's concern was Papal Infallibility. Why this should be I do not know. In short, the dogma, was defined by the First Vatican Council in 1870, and applies when the Pope makes an ex-cathedra statement on a matter of Dogma. There has only ever been one such statement, made by Pope Pius XII in 1950, which defined the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an article of faith.

There was never any possibility that Humanae Vitae, which Kung referred to, could have been an article of faith. This is of course not to say that anything said by the Pope is not to be regarded as important. The long term consequences of easy contraception still have to be evaluated as they have had dramatic consequences for society. It will take at least another 50 years before the full effects can be judged. Certainly in Sweden, society has been transformed in ways good and bad. One consequence is that immigrants have had to be allowed in quite freely just to keep up the numbers, to the extent that the population is now about 15% immigrant.

Kung also referred to the authoritarian government of the church. The church organisation is a very flat hierarchy - pope, bishops and priests. In my experience the problems do not originate with Rome but with the bishops, and parish clergy when they fail to carry out the instructions of Rome and just do the job they are there to do. Authority is often not exercised when it needs to be. The authority of Rome is the source of the rights of ordinary Catholics.

The other feature was on the Church of England and its troubles over female clergy. There is talk of bishops wanting to "go over" to Rome.

The Church of England would not exist were it not for Henry VIII wanting to get his divorce. Theologically, it is a lash-up. It is painful to watch, but to anyone in it wanting to go over to Rome it should be made clear that the way is open to them as an individual, just as it is to anyone else. And that an objection to women clergy is not of itself a reason for becoming a member of the Catholic church.

Since the Anglican church has a different understanding of priesthood from that in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, there should be no objection to female priests in their communion. Those who share the Catholic view of priesthood should sort out their position and seek admission if that is what they want. But they need to do it as individuals and not expect to take other people with them.

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